Must-Stew Courses

15 June 2010 By Janine Ketterer
Photo by Mark O'Connell

Although training for interior crew is not mandatory (beyond basic safety training), it is certainly necessary and with the variety of brilliant training programs around the world, there are plenty of courses to choose from.

“From what we’ve seen ourselves and what we’ve heard from other industry professionals, interior crew are investing in themselves and taking non-mandatory courses to help themselves stand out in the marketplace and be taken seriously,” says Lesley Philpot of Triple S Consultancy, a worldwide crew training company that offers an Excellence in Service program consisting of a two-part butler program, a bartending course and a wine course.

Triple S is pioneering a “coaching program” that accompanies their courses. “We not only have the teacher, but also a service coach who brings in the personal development side of things. A lot of students find it helpful and when they go back to their vessels, they, too, are able to coach.” Philpot says that the ultimate goal of Triple S is to instill confidence.

Maritime Professional Training in Fort Lauderdale also offers an Interior Yacht Management Course, which is designed for chief steward/esses or steward/esses who are in charge of everything interior. It is a good stepping stone for crew transitioning to estate management. Like Triple S, this course is a two-part, five-day course that can be taken separately or combined and proves to be very comprehensive.

Bluewater Yachting, which has offices in Antibes, London, Palma de Mallorca, Fort Lauderdale, Viareggio and Zug, Switzerland, and International Yacht Training (IYT) in Fort Lauderdale, both offer Interior Management Courses. Mike French, president of IYT, says, “It could be assumed that the majority of people taking the course would be people new to the industry when, in fact, 40 percent are experienced stews and pursers who have actually never been taught formally and want to get an alternative perspective. Service is an art not a science and yacht crew seem to thrive on sharing perspectives and ideas.

For interior crew looking for basic courses, there are many introduction and silver service courses to choose from. American Yacht Institute in Fort Lauderdale offers Interior Crew Basic Skills. Director Kristen Cavallini-Soothill says, “It's a total fast-track course in which we cover Silver Service and all serving types, detailing, yacht guest services i.e. laundry, valet, champagne, wine and bar service, coffee/tea and so on. We focus on attitude and situational awareness (guest awareness) with all the special service skills.” Courses at American Yacht Institute are offered in private or group settings and classes can be customized to cover everything from ironing, packing, inventory and stock, Excel and other computer software and event planning to name a few. Cavallini-Soothill says, “Damage is caused by lack of knowledge. Classes detailing ‘green’ skills are a short-term, easy fix.”

Bluewater offers a variety of silver service courses: a one-day Silver Service Foundation, a three-day Silver Service course and a three-day Interior foundation. Lizzie Irving of Bluewater says, “These courses are designed to teach all levels of steward/esses to have confidence and use creativity to develop their skills. We understand that every single yacht’s interior is different: furnishings, traditions, management etc. However, we want to assist in maintaining a high overall industry standard. These past few years we have seen more and more unqualified ‘green’ yacht crew with previous hospitality experience trying to make it in the world of yachting. With an influx of available crew, it is becoming difficult to hold on to a position when you are evidently out of your depth. We hope to educate junior crew enough about their positions in the short courses to give them a solid starting point to work from.”

MPT also offers Silver Service courses designed for all levels of service from entry-level crew to experienced steward/esses who want more formal training.

While basic and management courses are advantageous, there are many new and exciting opportunities for interior crewmembers. Bluewater is launching a chef training school and will provide two useful courses for steward/esses who double as cooks on smaller vessels. The Galley Foundation course and the Creative Canapés course were developed by Bluewater in response the number of junior crew the school saw filling the position of sole stew/cook who lacked formal kitchen/galley training.

Wine and bartending courses are a wonderful way to beef up a CV. Both Bluewater and Triple S offer wine courses. Bluewater, as part of its basic interior training, offers a one-day wine foundation course. Triple S, as part of its Excellence in Training, offers a Bartender/Barista course as well as a wine course. “Not only do we teach about the wines,” say Philpot, “but we emphasize to crew how to communicate about the wines to their guests.”

Safety courses add a practical edge to a CV. Mike French of IYT recommends Advanced Medical and Fire training. “We have found that stews with significant experience are starting to feel that they need advanced safety training,” says French. “We recently trained a stew who was on a boat that caught fire and was infuriated when the new deckhands, with their Yachtmasters, pushed her aside. As it turned out, her knowledge of the boat and experience guided the less-experienced crewmembers significantly. There is a trend starting for senior steward/esses to undertake these courses as they become more respected as managers in all aspects of their departments, including safety. Of course, in such a competitive job market they seem to correlate certification with advancement.”

As the job market gets tougher, padding a CV with the right type of training, be it practical or unique, is one way to stand out, especially in a profession as service-focused as interior yacht crew.